Film Review: I Love You, Man

Paul Rudd cements his status as Hollywood's newest A-list movie star in this light and funny “bromantic” comedy.

One of the most unexpected but delightful cinematic developments of the past few years has been the re-emergence of Paul Rudd as a comedy superstar in the making. After catching Hollywood's eye as Alicia Silverstone's stepbrother/love interest in 1995's Clueless, Rudd spent the next decade on a quest for that elusive breakout role, bouncing between small cult movies that nobody saw (Wet Hot American Summer) and bland studio fare that people saw but nobody remembered (The Object of My Affection). His career turnaround started with 2004's Anchorman, where he stole just enough scenes from star Will Ferrell to grab the attention of the film's producer Judd Apatow, who cast him in his own directorial debut, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the following year. After that, Rudd made memorable appearances in other Apatow productions like Knocked Up and Walk Hard until writer/director/comedian David Wain (with whom he made Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten) gave him his first successful star turn in last fall's box-office hit Role Models.

What's interesting about Rudd's recent ascent to the top of Hollywood's comic food chain is that the bulk of his fanbase isn't made up of now-grown women who memorized Clueless back in high school. Instead, the actor is an object of affection for millions of straight guys, who have no trouble owning up to the fact that they have a serious man crush on the dude who once dated Phoebe on "Friends." The attraction is entirely understandable; after all, most of Hollywood's leading men are way out of the average guy's league. We'll never have Brad Pitt's Adonis-like features, George Clooney's effortless cool or Will Smith's unnaturally strong charisma. Rudd, on the other hand, seems like one of us, only funnier and better-looking.

Ladies, expect your husband or boyfriend's man crush on Paul Rudd to grow even stronger thanks to his hilarious performance in the thoroughly winning I Love You, Man. Billed as a bromantic comedy, the film takes the traditional rom-com formula—boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy and girl go steady, boy and girl break up due to an easily solved
misunderstanding, boy and/or girl makes amends by delivering an embarrassing declaration of love in front of friends and family—and replaces the boy and girl with a boy and boy. One of these boys is Peter (Rudd), an ambitious but overly self-conscious real estate agent who pops the question to his steady girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) in the film's first five minutes. See, Peter's that rare guy who doesn't have girl problems. Unfortunately, he does have guy problems, specifically the lack of any close male friends or, as guys are supposed to refer to each other, bros.

So with Zooey's encouragement, Peter starts going on a string of "man dates" to find a dude he can have a beer with while playing some Madden on the ol' Xbox. None of these potential partners is exactly what he's looking for and the poor guy seems destined to remain bro-less, until he meets Sydney (Jason Segel), a manic pixie dream dude with an awesome bachelor pad, a lot of free time and no discernable job. Although they seem to have polar-opposite personalities, Sydney and Peter bond over various personal and professional concerns, as well as a shared love of the band Rush. Soon, Peter is spending all his time with his new buddy, leaving his other S.O., Zooey, alone at home most nights. Can their relationship survive his new bromance? Or will Peter continue to put his bro before his...uh, beloved fiancée?

Like most ordinary romantic comedies, plot isn't exactly I Love You, Man's strong suit. What the movie has in abundance, though, are big laughs. Director John Hamburg, who co-wrote the screenplay with Larry Levin, has cast the picture perfectly, from the stars on down to the bit players. In fact, the ensemble resembles a Who's Who of experienced comic performers, including Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons and Jane Curtin as Peter's parents, Jaime Pressly and Jon Favreau as a bickering married couple, and Rob Huebel and Aziz Ansari (from the MTV sketch-comedy show “Human Giant”) as Peter's rival real estate agent and fencing partner, respectively. Although handed the part of the film's straight woman, Jones gets to fire off a few good one-liners as well and has no trouble keeping up with either Rudd or Segel, who seems much more at ease playing the goofball than the leading man, as he did in last year's Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Rudd, meanwhile, is totally in his element as the main attraction of this comedy cavalcade and it's great fun to watch him play slightly against type. While he’s normally cast as a too-cool-for-school kind of guy, this role requires him to be, for lack of a better word, a giant dork and he makes Peter's social awkwardness both endearing and hilarious. Expect moviegoers' bromance with Rudd to continue for many years to come.

Click here to read an interview with I Love You, Man's director, John Hamburg.